On “things most common”

Writing to Walter Ong on May 31, 1953, McLuhan observes:

Reading St. Tho[ma]s De Trinitate Q VI a 2 objection one and reply thereto, a very Ramistic text, ‘whether in spec[ulating] on divine things imagination must be altogether relinquished: “It may be answered: sacred Scripture does not propose to us divine truths under the figure of sensible things in order that our intellect should remain there, but that from these things it should mount up to such as are invisible”: “Wherefore use is made of things most common, that these may be even less occasion for remaining at their level,” as says Dionysius (Coel. Hier. ch. 2)’. My eyes bugged out! And Thomas is not quite 1/3 right on this point I think. (Letters, 237)

McLuhan does not hesitate to criticize Thomas Aquinas, even to a Jesuit like Ong, where he feels that the revelatory power of “sensible things” and “things most common” has been slighted. On account of the “resonating bond in all things” (Take Today 3), a bond which works through discontinuity and disconnection, not continuity and connection, it is exactly distance from meaning which most points to it.

Distance works to emphasize the gap over which it extends. Emphasis on the gap, in turn, poses the question of its nature. Is it an “empty (…) vacuum” (Take Today 3) or a ”resonating bond” (Take Today 3)?

This question forms the entry way to McLuhan’s “critical vision“.


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